Cephalopod Awareness Days

October 12 is the last day of International Cephalopod Awareness Days, which is celebrated each year from October 8th through the 12th.

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In case you’re wondering, cephalopods are a class of mollusks that include octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, and nautiluses.

The timing of this celebration has nothing to do with the spooky Halloween holiday, although cephalopods have been haunting oceans for millions of years. No, the dates were chosen because cephalopods have either 8 or 10 appendages.


Cephalopod Awareness Days celebrate our curiosity and love of books, movies, and TV shows that feature cephalopod characters. For instance, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,’ ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘SpongeBob Squarepants,’ and the Harry Potter series, to name a few. Video games like Minecraft and Pokémon have cephalopods, too!

For the sake of keeping this post from growing as long as a giant squid’s tentacle, I’ll share with you just a few interesting facts about octopuses:

They’re extremely intelligent and have excellent memories. It’s no wonder they’re so smart since they have nine functioning brains, one behind the eyes and the others in each of its eight arms. They have four pairs of arms, by the way.

Some octopuses have been known to use tools. Watch the 39 second video below. Home sweet home!

They’re so smart, some have been observed opening everything from screw-top jars to the cap on a childproof medicine bottle.

If an octopus gets bored, they’ve been known to eat their arms. Ew! Do you think that’s gross? It might make you feel better to know that they’re able to regrow their limbs.

They have three hearts. (I wonder if they love Valentine’s Day three times as much?)

They have blue blood. (For a tongue twister, try saying “blue blood” three times as fast as you can.)

Octopuses can change colors to blend in with their surroundings and hide from their enemies. It takes less than a second for them to change color. They can also change their texture to disguise themselves. This is a cool 24-second video:

If a predator confronts them, they can squirt dark ink to dull the sense of smell of their attacker, giving the octopus a chance to escape.

They also have venom, but only the blue ringed octopuses’ bite can be deadly to humans.

They don’t have a skeleton, so they’re able to squeeze through small spaces. Their bodies can fit through any cracks that their beaks fit through. This 1:42 minute video shows an octopus slithering through a crack in a boat:

Do you think Harry Houdini would have been impressed by that escape?

The last interesting fact I’d like to share is kind of scary, like something right out of a horror story. Once a male octopus mates, it dies soon after. The females can lay up to 400,000 eggs, which they guard with their lives. When the eggs hatch, the mother’s body quickly deteriorates until she dies. A haunting tale, for sure.

To learn about other cephalopods, here’s one website among many about these amazing creatures.

So what do you think of cephalopods? Do you find them fascinating? What’s your favorite creature, either real or fictional? Can you think of a book or movie that has a cephalopod in it?

If you love fun, creepy stories, my Monster Moon series coauthor, Kathryn Sant, and I have three thrillers you might like. We write under the pen name BBH McChiller.

Book 1 – Curse at Zala Manor (Great read for Halloween):



“This tale will rattle yer timbers, squiffie, and chill ye to the bone!”

It’s almost Halloween, and twelve-year-old AJ Zantony’s world is threatened by an ancient curse that releases wicked pirates who had been trapped for centuries in his Aunt Zsofia’s creepy mansion, Zala Manor.

Available in print or eBook formats.


Book 2 – Secret of Haunted Bog (Fast paced and full of action):

Lynn Kelley Author, BBH McChiller, Secret of Haunted Bog, Monster Moon mysteries

“Beware the bog, landlubbers.

If ye venture into that haunted place,

Yer every step be filled with danger. Yarr!”

Available in print or eBook formats.




Book 3 – Legend of Monster Island (Perfect for Cephalopod Awareness Days):

Cover illustration by fellow Emblazoner, Mikey Brooks

“Listen, swabbers, to this kraken tale.

Treasure and scoundrels and setting sail.

Sinking ships and a ghostly wail.

Can AJ survive, or will the beast prevail?”

Available in print or eBook formats.






Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years while she and her husband, George, raised their four little rascals, but nowadays she’s a goofball in the highest degree who’s susceptible to laughing jags. She tries to control herself out in public, but it’s not easy. She’ll jump at any excuse to wear funky get-ups. For instance, making wacky YouTube videos, entertaining her grandkids, or hanging out at  a costume party.

She recently became a Master Certified Health Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.




Thrilling Tween Reads for Halloween

It’s ten days before Halloween. Ten children, a mix of boys and girls, cram together around the mirror of the upstairs bathroom. The lights are turned off. The window is blacked out. The only light is a small tea candle that sits next to the jack-o-lantern soap dispenser. A few of the children close their eyes, but most stare fixedly at the mirror’s reflection waiting, waiting for a ghostly face to appear.

“Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary…Bloody Mary,” the children chant thirteen times.

Someone screams.

Then everyone screams.

The lights come on and the laughing begins…

This is the most vivid memory I have of my childhood. I even remember the smell the candle made when the flame was blown out. I also remember my friend the next day unable to go to the restroom by himself because he was afraid of the mirror within. I never wondered as a child why I was so fascinated with ghost stories. Now that I am an adult, the question lingers—wanting an answer. Why are children so fascinated with ghoulish tales?

Like most children’s lore, scary stories are used by children as a tool to teach each other the concepts of the unknown. These ghoulish tales teach children about concepts they should now be trying to implement in their everyday life such as: responsibility, attentiveness, obedience, and honesty. They also teach children how to overcome and face fears, achieve hard things, and how to deal with the unexpected. Plus, scary stories are fun! Like the thrill of riding the roller coaster, a creepy book can offer the same exciting sensation.

Below is a list of thrilling tween books you might want to try reading this Halloween season. Not all of them are creep-crawly books. I’ve thrown in some suspense ones as well:

22673361The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden, by Emma Trevayne. One of the best openings to a book I’ve ever read. A boy who works as a grave robber digs up the body of a boy who looks identical to him. Slightly spooky and very entertaining with a fairy twist.

28669595The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. A girl is sent to an island to die with the rest of those infected with an incurable disease. Suspenseful and entertaining. This book has a lot of humor in it too.

28263028Collide, by Christine Fonseca. A psychic assassin is targeting a group of teens that have been experimented on by the government. Very suspenseful! I listened to this one on audiobook and enjoyed it.

18651970The Thickety series, by J. A. White. Each book gets creeper and creeper as the story goes on. If you’re into witch hunts, creepy woods, and ghost children, this series is for you. This is probably one of the scariest series on the list.

2213661The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. A story about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard with a murderer trying to find him. Mildly scary but with humor as well. I listened to this one on audiobook and enjoyed it.

9460487Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. A boy discovers a group of strange children that are being hunted by monsters. This one can be very creepy. It is now a Tim Burton film.

298567The Wardstone Chronicles, by Joseph Delaney. This is a series about a boy who is training to become a “Spook”. Someone who deals with witches, ghosts, and the unholy unnatural. Probably the creepiest series on the list.

6186357The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. This whole series is pretty thrilling. A boy wakes up in a box with no memories. He meets a group of boys trapped in a giant maze with monsters that come out at night. Also a movie but the books are better.

emblazoners-promo-imageWhat are some of your favorite reads during this time of year? Let me know in the comments. Enjoy your reads and keep in touch!



That Feeling of Relief

So, the feeling of relief…it is pretty amazing, right? Take the following examples:

  • Sitting down with a gaming controller after a long day.
  • Taking off shin guards after a soccer game.
  • An ice-cold drink of water after mowing the lawn on a 100+ degree day.
  • Pulling a foot out of one of those tight ski boots after a long day on the slope (this could also be replaced with a too-tight bicycle cleat after a long ride).
  • That first plate from your favorite buffet after a day of fasting in eager anticipation.

imageI could go on, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this. As I thought about what I wanted to write for this post, I couldn’t help but consider my own current mindset. You see, I just finished Ragesong: Alliance, and that beautiful ‘I can finally sit back for a minute’ feeling hit. It was a huge relief.

With my current schedule, I am usually able to churn out one or two books a year. It isn’t a lot, I know. I learned a long time ago that failure to prioritize can lead to some pretty hairy situations, however, and it is always worth avoiding those. In the example of my writing, I found a schedule that works for me…more or less.

So, here I sit, excited for tonight. After the kids go to bed, I can relax and unwind in the best way possible. That’s right! I’m talking about video
games (where did your mind go, people??). There is nothing better than sitting down for a nice binge session on video games when you feel you completely deserve it. Alliance is in the hands of my editor and I get to dust my hands off and wait until it comes back.

Here’s the thing. For the past several months I have been struggling to stay on target with Alliance. I would find things to occupy my time that kept me from writing in the evenings. Stupid things, like: video games, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, etc… In short, I was finding it extremely difficult to stay focused. The downside (and upside) was that I had readers hitting me up to know what was going to happen next. In all sincerity, I love it when this happens because it shows that a reader is invested and they care. It is extremely motivating. So, like any good procrastinator, I grounded myself. I would not allow myself to enjoy in any late night gaming sessions until after I finished.

Oh boy, it was grueling at times! The only use my poor ps4 received for the last several months was when I would watch a movie with my kids. It was tough, but since I wanted to play, I was able to focus more and I was able to finish the book. I will say, that I can’t remember enjoying a gaming session quite as much as the one I had the night I sent Alliance to my editor. It was SO great!

At first, I simply enjoyed the night for what it was. Kids in bed, the wife NES_controllerwatching T.V. in the other room and me, sitting on the couch with a controller in hand watching the opening cut scenes for MGS5. Now, as I sit back and consider that euphoric feeling, I realize it wasn’t just the gaming. It was the fact that I could sit down and play without a shred of guilt because I had accomplished something I was proud of. I knew that in that moment, there was nothing more I could do for my book, and I really felt I had earned that time.

Upon coming to that conclusion, I tried to think about what I can do to experience it again. Because, honestly, there is nothing quite as good as a guilt-free evening of doing something you love without the nagging feeling that you should be doing something else. So, my question to myself was, ‘what can I do to experience it again?’ The answer of course comes by way of lists. Why? Because…lists.

  1. Set worthwhile goals – Half of the reason I enjoyed the reward as much as I did was because I felt like I had accomplished something truly worthwhile.
  2. Set reasonable expectations – I was already through with a good portion of the book. I knew that my goal obtainable. I was not setting myself up for failure by trying to do too much.
  3. Find what works – Withholding something enjoyable not only gave me motivation, but I also found that I enjoyed it all the more after taking time away. ‘Absence doth make the heart grow fonder.’ There’s a lot of truth to that.
  4. Enjoy the reward – Give yourself time to enjoy the fruits. Don’t rush on to the next project so fast that you can’t sit back and take joy in what you have done.

In life, we do a lot of things in life that aren’t easy. I found that occasionally those tasks can become more manageable when we are properly motivated. Not to mention, the end result can make a fun experience even more incredible. I’d love to keep writing…but I’ve got games to catch up on before the PlayStation Holiday rush hits. So, until next time, folks!

J.R. Simmons
– Author of the Ragesong Saga

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Publishing: Cut Yourself Some Slack

I have a confession. I have a bad habit of comparing my productivity to other writers, and, darn it, if I don’t always come up short! Basically, I write during my spare time, which a busy household of six and work doesn’t leave a whole lot of (Yuck! That comes across as whining. Well, let’s call it for what it is: justified bellyaching. ;-)).

A few weeks ago, I finished the first draft of the fifth installment in Cassidy Jones Adventures. It took me nearly two years to write. Now, you’d think I’d be celebrating that accomplishment. But, no, not me. I enjoyed the triumph for about 30 seconds, before feeling anxious and guilty about the book not being published yet, because I should have had it done, like, over a year ago, and now I’m soooooooo far behind (Who am I behind? I don’t know.). But I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve totally blown it, because Miss Prolific Pants had managed to publish five books in the last couple of years, and Mr. Churns-Em-Out-Like-Butter must have published at least a dozen! How many book covers grace his Amazon page now? Fifty? Gimme a sec. I’ll go count, again…

I have to ask myself: When did this become a race? Oh, I know! When I started comparing myself to other authors, and when I inflicted self-imposed deadlines on myself (I’m a nightmare boss.).

Needless to say, I have ceased to enjoy the journey. My goal now: regain that joy. The only way that I can fathom accomplishing this undertaking is to take a deep breath, close my eyes (so they’re unable to count all of those book covers), allow a story to come alive in my mind, and write it, without letting my gaze stray to the date on the upper corner of my laptop.

Some of you are even worst off than I am. You have a story tumbling around your head that you won’t let your fingers set free on a keyboard, because there just isn’t enough blasted time in a day! Remember, there isn’t any such thing as an aspiring writer. You’re either a writer, or you’re not. So just do it. Write, even if you’re the tortoise (Wait! This isn’t a race. I forgot.). Keep at it, bit by bit. Eventually, you’ll have the satisfaction of typing “The End.”

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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My Favorite Thing!

Meeting people who read my books is my favorite thing! Last year, I maintained a booth at the Arizona Family Home Education Convention. It was an awesome experience! I met people of all ages. We chatted about books, education, psychology, history, and reading. Then we talked about my books and about me as a writer. I answered questions like: what inspired me to write, what inspired me to write this particular series, and how many books I intended to write throughout my career.

I had a blast! I love meeting people! By the end of the convention I was exhausted, but it was the best kind of tired. What stimulated and encouraged me the most was talking with kids that were interested in reading my books. I wasn’t so jazzed that they were interested in my books, although I’ll admit that really excited me, it was that they were interested in the history of the setting and the strength of the character! They were intrigued about a new place they could research and that historically a women had been actual warriors and leaders of a rich and strong kingdom.

Of course I had to go back to the AFHE Convention again this year. My experience was even better! I got reacquainted with people I had met from last year, last year’s new readers had become old fans, and several people I’d not met came looking for my booth after having been introduced to my work by their friends!

My new booth design added to my excitement this year. I very special friend of mine created this wonderful thing of beauty!

Gorgeous Adventure
Gorgeous Adventure

If it had not been for the very talented Melissa, I would not have had this fantastic environment to work in.

I’m super excited about next year! New books and new adventures!